Getting over heartbreak? There’s a podcast about that. Can Maths prove the existence of Aliens? There’s a podcast about that. Is Chocolate better for you than salad? You guessed it… There’s a podcast for that too. 

Having binged on several podcasts over the holidays – we’ve been discussing their meteoric rise in popularity of the podcast. It’s fair to say they’ve been a game changer in the world of audio content – from the first outing in the world 20 years ago – podcasts have become an essential part of our lives, with 20 million, of us tuning in while we cook, clean, drive or jog. There’s definitely a podcast for everyone, no matter who you are or what you’re interested in.  

And it feels like everyone has a podcast or is thinking about starting one! Not surprising as they’re relatively easy to launch and can be done on a modest budget. The appeal of having the freedom to choose the form and subject matter of your content is a strong draw – whether it’s philosophy, social issues, comedy or food – the world can hear your voice and your thoughts about it! 

The rise of the “visual podcast” continues to grow apace – with creators and platforms, inevitably expanding their content into live events, TV shows or scripted film. There is also a shift towards podcast content moving onto bigger media networks. Elizabeth Day, who launched her podcast How to Fail in 2018, clocking up over 200 episodes and 45 million downloads has joined Sony Music Entertainment’s podcast network. The platform will provide her content with “amplification and elevation, primarily on digital and social media” 

What can we learn from all this? 

Dalbir Bains of recently launched podcast Nobody’s Coming To Fix You cites the creative freedom as motivation “your topics can be as niche or as broad as you want and you can format it however you want – from a Q &A session which I recently did in Mumbai about setting up a business in India to a monologue style podcast or my favourite, chatting to women who are experts in their fields, sharing their wisdom, learnings and stories” Podcasts differ from TV, where we often tell a story through the lens of a person’s life experience – a podcast can uniquely create a compelling dialogue between the podcaster and the listener. Bains adds, “it’s a fun way to ask questions to amazing experts’ leaders and influencers – I’m learning at the same time as my audience”. This intimacy is one of the key reasons behind the rise and rise of many podcasts.  

And in a world where we are all seeking to understand shifting cultures and attitudes– the intimacy and depth of the conversation can reach audiences who don’t watch TV about the issues discussed. Jon Sopel, former BBC North America editor and now part of The News Agents podcast feels he can reach audiences he couldn’t in his role at the BBC. The audience for ‘BBC News at Ten on BBC One is over 60. I reckon the average age of our podcast is early 30s… the idea that young people aren’t interested in the news or what’s happening in the world is total horseshit. They are interested, they’re just not interested in the conventional way of doing it.” Coco Khan, co-host with Nish Kumar on Pod Save The UK, told delegates at a recent conference that we are in an “age of authenticity” 

At Chatterbox, where our mission is to “Disrupt and Entertain” with content that makes you think – there is inspiration in the many podcasts that chime with this, giving space to narratives that wouldn’t otherwise be heard. In a crowded global market – these voices can be marginalised. The podcast has to some extent democratised content creation – challenging the status quo and offering new ideas and perspectives to the audience. It means voices from under-represented places and communities can share their stories without mediation or gatekeeping, making it a powerful platform for authentic story telling. As Poppy Jay, co-host of the award-winning “Brown Girls Do It Too,” put it in a recent interview with the Guardian, “The beauty of podcasts is anyone can do it; you’re not a slave to the commissioning process or doing it through the lens of an exec who doesn’t really understand the lived experiences of a community.”  

It’s refreshing from a creative perspective to recognise the value and importance of providing content for underserved audiences – content that resonates with them. We are proud of Charlotte in Sunderland’s success with northeast audiences. Chatterbox will continue to create content that allows us to tell stories from a diverse range of cultural, socio economic and ethnic backgrounds. It can be a struggle sometimes, but it has to be at the heart of everything we do.  

For Nav Raman, Chatterbox Creative Director, podcasts have proven to be an invaluable resource when researching and brainstorming with the team. The expansive range of content, from true crime to politics and pop culture, makes it an entertaining and important part of the creative process. And she loves the things you can learn from a podcast “you don’t always have time to formally learn about something, but you can tune into a podcast on the subject and educate yourself in a way that works for my routine” She also thinks we can learn from the sense of community they can create “no matter what I’m into and however niche I’ll be able to find someone else who is similarly obsessed. You feel a connection with hosts and a part of their conversations which brings real loyalty. That is something we all aspire to” Her takeaway; in an age where we are bombarded with so much content the power of authenticity shines through.  

Chatterbox’s Head of Development Ellie Sabine-Singh is inspired by the entrepreneurial approach podcasters take in building and leveraging their brands and communities outside their podcast. “We were recently invited to the ShxtsNGigs Podcast live show… from the way James and Fuhad commanded their live audience, to their playful sold-out merchandise, and their viral digital clips on Instagram and TikTok – it’s a smart and strategic approach we can learn from.”  

At a time when commissioning has slowed, it’s never been more key for production companies to think more laterally and creatively about existing brands and content. For us, 2024 is the year of extending our content beyond traditional broadcasting, more collaborations and using our content to its fullest potential to engage with audiences across different mediums.